A selection of ceramics through the ages (5 second delay) Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology The Collections:
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Japanese Export Porcelain in the Ashmolean Museum

The Background to Japanese Export Porcelain

The Evolution of Porcelain Production In Japan
There was no porcelain production in Japan at the beginning of the 17th century. The Japanese had had a long experience of stoneware manufacture for the domestic market and in particular for the tea ceremony but for some reason had not produced porcelain despite the fact that Chinese porcelain was highly prized in Japan. The advent of porcelain production in Japan is laced with many apocryphal stories. But, probably as a result unsuccessful military excursions into Korea in the 1590's, Korean potters were brought to Japan and settled in the island of Kyushu (the nearest Japanese island to Korea, where they first landed) and revived a stoneware pottery in Karatsu. At first the potters made stoneware pots in the Korean mode. The Korean potters also brought with them the technology to build the more sophisticated noborigama climbing kiln. Some time within the first ten years of the 17th century a large deposit of porcelain stone was discovered in the mountainside of Mount Izumiyama close to the town of Arita. At first, both porcelain and stoneware were produced in parallel but later porcelain kilns arose in areas around Arita where running water was available for the driving of mechanical stone crushers to process the porcelain stone and the levigation of the porcelain clay. For these reasons, Arita became the main centre for porcelain production in Japan.

By the 1640's the Arita kilns were producing blue and white porcelain (which the Japanese call ko-sometsuki) and celadon ware. In addition, Japanese potters had started to use overglaze enamel decoration in the 1630's. There was a wide variation in the shapes and styles of decoration. Saggars were being used to protect the pottery in the kilns and kiln temperature control was improved. Much high quality and freely artistic ware in Japanese style, the shoki-Imari ware, was produced in this pre-export period. By the 1650's the technology and skill base was able to cope with the demands of an export trade.

Events in Japan Background

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Importation in Europe
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